OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate Judiciary wades into cybersecurity

Comments on AT&T/T-Mobile merger pile-up:  Monday was the deadline for stakeholders to weigh in with their comments on AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA at the Federal Communications Commission. Both supporters and detractors took the opportunity to weigh in with their arguments for and against the merger, but perhaps the most notable filing came from a coalition of public interest groups that didn't hesitate to lambaste AT&T, accusing the telecom giant of everything from bad service to strong-arm tactics.

Other opponents included Public Knowledge, which labeled the transaction illegal based on a rule that prohibits the commission from approving transactions that reduce competition. The group is planning to file a preliminary report arguing AT&T's spectrum crunch is not as bad as advertised and that T-Mobile's prospects are brighter than AT&T claims. Competitor Sprint presented a detailed technical analysis arguing AT&T can increase its network capacity six times without purchasing T-Mobile.

AT&T brushed aside the criticism, responding to Sprint with the following: “A company that has outsourced the management of its own network shouldn’t be giving advice to others.” The firm has consistently maintained that T-Mobile will not survive on its own and the combined entity would be able to rapidly deploy next generation wireless coverage to 97 percent of the country, fulfilling a key pledge from the Obama administration. A combination of support from organized labor and one of the deepest lobbying teams in town should significantly improve the firm's odds of getting the deal approved.

Groups weighing in to back the merger included the National Black Church Initiative, the Hispanic Institute, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and the Reason Foundation.

Rumor mill: VA's Baker to OMB? We reported last week that federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra will make his exit from government in mid-August to take up residence at Harvard University as a fellow. Having documented Kundra's rapid rise since his days in the D.C. government, the question now becomes who will replace him and have the responsibility of following through on some of the ambitious goals laid out by the Obama administration with regard to reform federal information technology.

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Several names have emerged, but insiders and experts consistently come back to one person in particular: Veterans Affairs Chief Information Office Roger Baker. Widely respected in Beltway tech circles, Baker has the kind of on-the-ground experience that makes him particularly well-suited to overseeing the $80 billion federal IT portfolio. His willingness to step into the breach at VA, which was facing a wide-reaching scandal in its technology division at the time, is further evidence of his ability to tackle difficult tasks.

FCC to fight "cramming" on wireless bills: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Monday that he plans to propose new rules that would make it harder for mobile carriers to hit customers with "mystery fees" on their monthly bills. The practice, known as "cramming," typically involves charging customers between $1.99 and $19.99 per month for services they either didn't use or didn't request. The FCC last week announced fines totaling nearly $12 million against four carriers for cramming.


ICYMI:

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell lost his legal adviser and added Erin McGrath in an acting role.

The House will get its own hearing on the White House cybersecurity hearing Friday, featuring former acting cyber czar Melissa Hathaway.

LightSquared agreed to move to a different band of spectrum to avoid interfering with GPS systems.

Sega was the latest high-profile tech company to be hacked, jeopardizing the data of 1.3 million users.

The hacktivist groups LulzSec and Anonymous have joined forces.

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